Operationalizing the increase of water use efficiency and resilience in irrigation

Project website: not (yet) available

 marius heinen

Dr. Marius Heinen

 Executive Coordinator 

Projects  Partner and Institution:

1 - Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), The Netherlands

2 - Stellenbosch University (SU), South Africa

3 - Evenor Tech (Evenor), Spain

4 - Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiologia de Sevilla (IRNAS – CSIC), Spain

5 - French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA – EMMAH), France

6 - University of Florence (UNIFI – DISPAA), Italy

7 - Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA) – Research Centre for Policies and Bioeconomy (CREA-PB), Italy

8 - Institute of Technology and Life Sciences (ITP), Poland

Key words

precision irrigation, climate change, sensors, modelling, weather forecast


Agriculture is confronted with changing weather patterns. For farmers this implies higher risks related to crop growth and field work conditions. Adequate, timely and spatially differentiated measurements of soil moisture become more important for farmers to make decisions on if, when and how to irrigate. The project will focus on combatting water shortage at the farm scale and territory level by developing applicable service models for decision support in irrigation. Worldwide significant progress has been made to utilize precision irrigation as means to increase water use efficiency (more crop per drop) or decrease water foot print in irrigated agriculture. Overall this progress is restricted to application at field scale and integration precision irrigation in the planning of water resource use at territory scale is still a challenge. Point information, such as resulting from sensors, is still difficult to be transferred to a larger spatial unit. Remote sensing algorithms to estimate evapotranspiration are available but often not at sufficient resolution, and do not provide predictions on upcoming water use. More experience needs to be gained in combining technologies and scales: direct mapping of soil moisture as done with in-situ, air- or space borne radar, crop water stress mapping by thermal infrared sensors or derived from crop vigour and/or modelling of the crop/soil/atmosphere continuum. When adequately fused with terrestrial measurements these mapping tools offer decision support for agricultural water management. Up to now, acquiring data, analysis, fusion and modelling are yet merely scientific abstractions without a direct link to operational water management. OPERA aims to bring advances from remote sensing, soil moisture monitoring and forecasting rapidly towards implementation and commercialization. A series of case studies demanding precision irrigation, increased water use efficiency and resilience are used to research the practitioner needs, ways to increase the robustness of information supply, alternative cops, and concrete local barriers that had prevented the transfer of research results into the farmer and water manager practice. While water scarcity and the urgency to increase water use efficiency is the common nominator at all sites, the case studies will offer the access to different types of irrigation systems under different climatic conditions. In contrary to technological driven research projects, OPERA will apply a transdisciplinary approach to identify jointly (i) the user demands of farmers, farmer associations, extension services as well as water management organization, (ii) best possible combinations of information technologies and (iii) innovative service models to realize a practical transition towards an increased use of precision irrigation in practice. In this way the project contributes to optimal watering strategies and water saving, increase of agricultural productivity (tuning water supply to demand) and farm competitiveness in the agricultural market, and contributes to the creation of “green” job opportunities and economic growth for the EU and the associated international countries.

Project structure



WP1 - Identifying sector needs to increase resource use efficiency

WP2 - Forecasting water availability and critical water demand

WP3 - Guidance for optimal irrigation water strategies (case studies)

WP4 - Conceptualization of practical service models

WP5 - Project management and dissemination


D1.1 Report: Assessment of user requirements of the sector (month 8)

D1.2 Report: Outcome of the two stakeholder workshops (month 30)

D2.1 Reference framework (Report) defining requirements, implementation condition and evaluation procedure (month 9)

D2.2. Portfolio of methods (report, website) (month 30)

D3.1 Results of field measurements, weather forecast and simulation models that allow elaborating more precise irrigation scheduling based on actual conditions (month 24).

D3.2 Draft version of practical guidance for optimal irrigation strategies for farmers, farmer associations, local policy makers (month 26).

D3.3 Final version of practical guidance (month 28).

D4.1 Report on socio-economic assessment (month 26)

D4.2 Report on feasible service models for the irrigation sector (month 29)

D5.1 Inception report (month 3)

D5.2 Consortium Agreement signed by all partners (month 4)

D5.3 Midterm Progress report (month 16)

D5.4 Final progress report (month 30)

D5.5 OPERA scientific booklet and peer-reviewed paper(s) (month 30)

References coordinator and  leaders of  each WP:

WP1: Sara Muñoz Vallés (Evenor Tech)

WP2: André Chanzy (INRA - EMMAH)

WP3: Wieslawa Kasperska (ITP)

WP4: Filiberto Altobelli (CREA - PB)

WP5: Marius Heinen (WEnR, coordinator)

Contact Point for  Communication/Dissemination activities:

Claire Jacobs (WEnR)

Contact Point for Open Data/Open Access activities:

Marius Heinen (WEnR)

Picture of the research team: